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Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa offers a message of continuity disguised as populist “change”

Robert Mugabe’s successor has thanked his predecessor for founding Zimbabwe as a free African nation on the basis on majority rule.

Zimbabwe has a new President after being ruled by Robert Mugabe from 1980 until earlier this week. Mugabe first ruled as Prime Minister in 1980 before taking the position of President in 1987. Things in Zimbabwe were relatively stable until the 6th of November when Mugabe dismissed Emmerson Mnangagwa as First Vice President.

In the subsequent weeks, the Army moved to take power while the ruling ZANU-PF party dismissed Mugabe as party leader and stripped his wife Grace of party membership. Later, ZANU-PF issued an ultimatum for Mugabe to step down from the Presidency which eventually happened on the 21st of November.

The quick transition to fellow ZANU-PF member and long-serving Mugabe associate Mnangagwa, looks to return Zimbabwe to stability during a time when Zimbabwe’s former imperial masters looked to exploit internal tensions for their own gain.

Zimbabwe’s crisis is internal – but Zimbabweans must now make sure to keep it that way

While Mnangagwa in recent years had an on-again/off-again relationship with Mugabe, with many blaming him for a failed coup against Mugabe in 2007, he remains a respected figure and a party loyalist whose dispute with Mugabe was more personal than policy based.

Mnangagwa who had fled the country after his abrupt dismissal on the 6th of November, was opposed to Mugabe’s attempts to present his much hated wife Grace as the heir apparent for the Presidency. The Army and Mugabe’s own party sided with Mnangagwa and proceeded to remove Mugabe from power in order to prevent a would-be President Grace Mugabe when the 93 year old Robert resigns or dies.

During his swearing in which was attended by upwards of 60,000 Zimbabweans as well as the leaders Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia,  Mnangagwa called Mugabe “The father of the nation” before saying,

“Let us all accept and acknowledge his immense contribution to the building of our nation”.

This message of unity, in spite of what many Mugabe supporters see as a betrayal of an elderly President in his final years, is important for Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s most important economic partner China, will almost certainly be looking for signs of stability and policy continuity at a time when many neo-imperial powers will be looking to drive a schism between Harare and Beijing.

At the age of 75, Mnangagwa has a great deal of experience behind him. When he goes to the polls in August of 2018, after serving out the remainder of Mugabe’s term, he will look to secure a further mandate for the future.

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